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The skinny on resolutions

Life's big changes should be gradual because they don't come easy

Working out with a friend or spouse can be a key to a successful resolution, or in this case, good music brings a smile, too.
December 30, 2010
It's hardly a surprise that getting fit is among the top resolutions for 2011. Just as it was last year and every year sans Y2K, when many gathered as much water, duct tape, food and booze they could in case the world ended.

The No. 1 resolution coming into 2000 was to keep breathing. The bar was high.

Now, it appears, it's cool to say, "I have no resolutions." When asked, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told The Associated Press he's had "varying degrees of success" is his near-yearly pledge to lose weight. The story said it was his resolution "about 35 times" in his 48 years.

So why do we set ourselves up for failure? Why not pick something easier? About.com listed its top 10 as:

1.†Spending more time with family and friends.

2. Getting fit

3. Losing weight

4. Quit smoking

5. Enjoy life more

6. Quit drinking

7. Get out of debt

8. Learn something new

9. Help others

10. Get organized

For some, nothing short of an exorcism would allow for that list to be accomplished.

Some of the items on their top 10 aren't easy to handle. Being dependent on alcohol, cigarettes or drugs often combines with other issues such as depression or other addictive behaviors.

"Sixty percent of people who have a problem with the use of any substance have a corresponding health issue," said Dr. Pat O'Brien, a licensed psychologist from Grosse Pointe Park and the access services manager for Macomb County Community Mental Health. "Mood disorders and depression often go hand-in-hand with substance use."

O'Brien suggests seeking the advice of a physician before quitting a substance cold turkey.

"It may require treatment," she said. "Sometimes it's not the best option to go at it alone."

O'Brien said support for the changes can come from all directions, including medical treatments, counseling, 12-step programs or the support of friends and family.

"Let them know what you're doing so they can help support your effort," O'Brien said. "Change is difficult. Most people only make a change when it's more difficult to stay the way you are. Any person will get help only when they want help."

O'Brien said some slip as they are trying to quit a substance.

"It's hard to do, but my advice is to never quit quitting," she said. "Nobody is perfect. It's important if there is a fall to get right back in the saddle again."

Starting a diet in the new year is a popular choice because there's a tendency to eat in excess at holiday gatherings.

Again, changing everything just because the calendar says Jan. 1 may not be the best idea.

"It's important to gradually make changes in your diet," said Donna Morrison, director of nutrition services at Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe. "Pick one or two things to start. Eat more fruits and vegetables, avoid sweets or eat more fiber. By choosing one or two changes, you have a better chance at success."

Morrison said the body adjusts to the improved diet in about three weeks.

"But a lot of people try to change too much," she said. "They do well at first and then go back to the old eating habits because they feel deprived. It's better to go three weeks and then add something to it. The success gives you re-enforcement."

Morrison also had a couple simple suggestions for a better diet.

"Use smaller plates; studies have shown that people eat less when they use smaller plates," she said. "And don't stand by the food table. You'll eat more."

People who eat healthy are likely to sleep better and have a stronger immune system, Morrison said.

"Combine healthy eating with exercise and you'll have more energy," she said. "It's OK to go off it for something planned, like a holiday party."

The key, she said, is getting right back to the regimen of the healthy diet.

On the workout side, the same rings true about starting slowly and building into a fitness routine.

Melissa Boguslawski, a fitness coach with Beaumont's Sola Life & Fitness, earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and health science and a master's of public health degree. She played college softball and joined Beaumont six weeks ago.

"You should start simple with small goals and then make modifications as you go," Boguslawski said. "If you're not into exercise on a treadmill, find a biking or walking path. Do something you enjoy or you won't continue to exercise."

The first step, as is true with other resolutions, should be a visit to the doctor.

"It's very important to have a check up before you start," Boguslawski said. "Make sure your overall health is fine before you start. You'll have a good baseline for where you're at and where you need to be as far as blood pressure, body fat and muscular strength. The first step is seeing your doctor and then have an assessment to look at goals."

She also suggests teaming up with a friend or a spouse for support, especially when exercising in the winter months.

"It makes it more fun," she said. "And if you have to stay inside to exercise, there are several great exercise videos. Wii fit or the Wii Just Dance games are also options to get a good workout. Or you can work out at work by taking your tennis shoes and getting a 10 or 15 minute walk in during the day. It will get the heart rate going. There are plenty of ways to exercise."

A common mistake before starting a workout that often leads to injury, Boguslawski said, is stretching cold muscles.

"Always do a bit of a warmup before doing any stretching. It's important to get the muscles going first," she said. "And it's important to stretch at the end of a workout. The muscles are already warm."

Whatever people give up Jan. 1, the experts agree it's important to start out slow and allow the body to catch up.

"The success rate will be much higher," Morrison said.

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